The province is introducing travel restrictions that limit non-essential travel in B.C.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth introduced rarely-used extraordinary powers of the Emergency Program Act to prohibit non-essential travel between three regional zones in the province, using health authority boundaries. The regional zones are:

1. Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley (Fraser Health and Coastal Health regions);

2. Vancouver Island (Island Health region); and

3. Northern/Interior (Interior Health and Northern Health regions.)

Breaking the rules can come with a $575 fine.

Farnworth confirmed that he has met with members of groups that have been racially-targeted in the past, though those that he met with asked to keep the list private.

New variants of the coronavirus have led to record cases of hospitalizations and stays in the ICU, something that Farnsworth said will still get worse before getting better.

More than 1.5-million British Columbians have had their first dose of vaccination, a number that Farnsworth said should double within the next month, though “for now, we need to hunker down, and stay local.”

“The new variant strains are infecting more people and resulting in record levels of hospitalizations that place a growing strain on the front-line health workers who have been here for us throughout this pandemic,” said Farnworth. “To help protect them and our communities, we must do more to discourage travel and begin to enforce restrictions on non-essential travel. While this new legal order targets those who are travelling across regional zones for recreational purposes, the advice from Dr. Henry to stay local remains in place everywhere in B.C. Do not go to Whistler or Tofino – even on a day trip. Everyone should stay close to home.”

Since the order pertains only to non-essential travel, there are still circumstances where citizens can cross into other regions. These include things like attending school or work, the commercial transportation of goods, returning to a principal residence, accessing child care, obtaining health care or assisting someone to receive health care.

Henry said that it is a concern that variants have recently increased in cases in our provincial population.

“I am calling on everyone to stay in their local communities and support these travel restrictions to stop the most dangerous travel across regional zones to control the spread of COVID-19 and support our front-line health-care workers.”

In terms of police engagement, the province will be working with police authorities in the coming days to establish periodic road checks at key travel corridors during times associated with leisure travel to remind travellers of the order.

According to a provincial press release, these road checks will be set up near ferry terminals and on highway corridors that connect different regions of the province.